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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Time for a New QRP Field Radio

W4KYR (W4KYR) on September 18, 2013
View comments about this article!

Time for a New QRP Field Radio

How about a CW/AM/SSB/PSK31 radio that can do both QRP and up to 20 watts?

It will cover all the HF bands, have a built in tuner, built in battery pack (including the capability to use common D cells), built in AC supply, built in 12 volt vehicle charger, usb port, built in antenna, mini keyboard for PSK31, microphone, earphones.

Have great specs, low current consumption on the receiver, built like a tank and yet relatively light weight. It would have a switch for 1, 5, 10 and 20 watts.

I'm talking about taking certain elements of the SGC 2020, IC 703, FT 817, FT 897, KX3, IC 7200, VX 1210 and Army PRC type 'Manpack' radios and combining it into a rough and tough, grab and go radio.

Grab and go means having the radio hanging by its strap on the door knob and just grab it and go and QSO anywhere without additional equipment.(Or worrying about forgetting anything).

Grab and go means turn on the radio, lift the antenna up and start talking. The least bit of effort is needed to get on the air.

Forgot to charge the battery? No problem, just plug it into the 12-volt vehicle power to charge the batteries on your way to the camp site. Need to use it portable now and you have dead batteries? Stop by the local 24 hour food mart and buy couple of D Cell batteries , pop them in and your good to go. Everything would be self-contained.

It could look much like the IC 7200, Army PRC Manpack Radios, Vertex VX 1210 and SGC 2020 (with all its accessories) all combined into one unit.

What would be the appeal of this?

#1 It would serve the QRP crowd.

#2 It would serve the 'higher than QRP' power crowd.

#3 It would serve the ecomm crowd.

#4 Both newcomers and long time hams could like it.

#5 It will fill the gap that the SGC-2020 left with its 20 watt power output.

#6 It would appeal to KX3 owners who are concerned about bring their radios to the field. Like the KX3 it would have a USB port and does PSK-31.

#7 It would appeal to those who are into the Manpack, Military PRC type of radios.

#8 It would appeal to the Pedestrian mobile crowd.

#9 It would appeal to the IC-7200 crowd with its USB port, simplicity, reliability, water resistant and ruggedness.

#10 The best part, it compliments other radios that hams already own. It would be the radio to use for outdoors and on the go. While it could be used as a base or mobile radio it's best place would be outdoors, all self-contained and ready to go at a moments notice.

There is a demand out there for this type of radio. Looking at eBay, both the IC 703 and SG 2020 often command prices above $600.

Seems more people than ever are building their own grab and go ecomm boxes. A new ham radio item has hit the market. "Radio Carriers" where you bring your own components (radio, tuner, batteries, antennas) and mount it on the carrier are selling for $159 +/- on eBay.

The Elecraft KX3 is a wild success, the Yaesu FT 817ND is still being sold since first released in 2001 (as a non ND).

So who could build this radio? Yaesu would be a natural. Having already made the FT 817/ND and the FT 897/ND. As well as the Vertex VX 1200 and 1210 Manpack radios.

Perhaps if Elecraft took the Manpack concept, they could make a true manpack version of the KX3 and then we would be close to what I'm suggesting here. Call it the KX3-M.

Icom already made the IC 703 and the IC 7200 is a rough and rugged radio, but lacks built in tuner, and built in battery power.

Maybe Ten-Tec or Kenwood?

Perhaps the Chinese, who have developed the various YouKits QRP radios in trail ready radio and a QRP HF HT. Then there is the X1M QRP SSB and X1M Platinum.

Your Thoughts?

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by TANAKASAN on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
An interesting challenge, let's see what we can do with this idea:

All mode HF (plus 6m please) could be done with a modern DSP chip an image rejecting mixer and an Si570 for the local oscillator. If you can't fit this into four square inches you're not trying hard enough, just don't ask me to write the software.

The built in battery pack is easy if we use the new lithium flat-pack cells that take up little volume but provide an amazing amount of power, just charge them carefully. Modern battery chargers are a single chip solution.

As the output power is low an internal ATU can use small ferrites so the volume there is low as well. Variable output power can be done with a single chip over an internal SPI or I2C interface.

No to the built in keyboard, it's added complexity and cost plus you will need a host of different keyboards because of the international market. An interface to an Android smart phone would be a much better idea as you could then use the phone display, microphone and speaker as well as the keyboard. As an alternative that USB port (USB 3 please) could communicate with a laptop.

No to the built in mains supply as well. Add this in and you have a host of certifications to overcome including CE and VDE for the European market. There's a reason why appliances come with wall warts and there's nothing to stop you using a wall wart at (say) 20V to improve amplifier linearity.

Now, who wants to contribute to this design next?

Tanakasan
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W1JKA on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
How about the carrying strap? Maybe a 2 in.wide 4 ft. length with built in flexible small solar panels for recharging along with small yo-yo type antenna reel at each snap hook for a small dia. wire emergency NVIS dipole,the strap itself being the feed line. Both charger and antenna fitted with appropriate plug in leads.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KG4RUL on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Let's go into "Shark Tank" mentality. How big is your potential market? What price do you expect to produce it for? What price do you expect to sell it for? How will you sell it? How will you provide warranty service and repairs? How will you advertise it? What is your advertising budget? What is your time frame to first production article? How will you obtain necessary Government certifications?
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AB2RC on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
no built in antenna, but a good multiband whip could be supplied with it.

no built in keyboard, but provide for a bluetooth or usb interface for one instead.

Built in lithium battery pack, that can easily be swapped out to use standard alkalines.

Built in solar charger - make it the top panel of the case

External power - should be able to run on anything from 9-24v - perhaps half power at lower voltages

10 watts is plenty, no need to go to 20

add in 6m, 2m, 70cm & fm capabilities

crossband repeater functionality could be built in also
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by WB4TJH on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The Elecraft KX3 is amazing, but I see NO reason to want more features than my Elecraft K2 already offers.Its performance and features leave the IC-703, FT-817D behind in the dust. I have an SG2020 that I sent back THREE times to SGC under warranty, and it NEVER DID work right. Buying that piece of crap was the worst mistake I ever made in 43 years as a ham. My K2 is the best radio I have ever owned. The features and options available for it are all I could ever need. Mine puts out a solid 12-14 watts. No rice box even comes close to it.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KK0G on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Sounds like some neat features but definitely not my idea of a field rig. All those cool features and capabilities would make it a large and heavy unit, worse though would be the massive current draw caused by all that "stuff" which of course necessitates a much heavier battery. When I'm backpacking and carrying everything for my survival on my back, more weight is the last thing I want in my pack.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by K7ZOV on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I can see your point of view and find it somewhat interesting. I have in the past few decades owed and traded off SGC-2020, FT-817's, IC-703, FT-857, K2/10, IC-7200 and a few other. I presently have a KX3 and have found the size, weight and features to be nothing short of amazing and for me a keeper radio. When thinking of price it is a bit pricey, but well worth it. The latest entry in the market being the T-T Arg which is in the same price range but lack a whole of features and bands. Using these two radio as a benchmark for price/features and projecting it into what you propose would make a box that could reach $2K really quick and I don't think the market would support that... Or if the ChiComs decide that this will be there next target market and go after Elecraft and T-T then maybe a $500-$750 radio might meet your dream radio specs and happen. Time will tell. For me the KX3 has turned out to be beyond what I ever expected out of the other radios and 10 watts has done wonders.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W4KYR on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
One enterprising ham from Austria has built a cool looking case around the KX3 which almost resembles a manpack radio. Perhaps this is something Elecraft, or someone could offer as an option for the KX3.

http://www.oe2atn.at/tom/gobox/

I think it needs handles in the front, could be deeper to accommodate a bolt on battery pack. Add a mount for a hamstick antenna.










 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W1JKA on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
As mentioned before in other forums as of now the KX3 is probably the closest your going to get for "man pak" type radio but only if Elecraft can ruggedize it in a heavier duty and moisture resistant package especially where through case holes and control buttons/shafts are concerned. Most know a half ass attempt has been made by others to do this i.e. protective plastic dust cover, projecting protective side handles etc. which only makes the rig bulkier/heavier and a partial stop gap fix at best.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KE7TMA on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
You, Zenki, and Tanakasan should all get together, if you haven't already. Meanwhile the rest of us are pretty happy with what we already have. Why don't you three use your broad knowledge and industry connections to actually build this dream radio of yours?
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AB9TA on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
There's already a radio like this in current production; All the bells & whistles, plus a wide range of accessories..
Made by Harris Corp., their RF-5800 model.. The only bad part? Current US gov pricing is about $30,000 ea.

If I ever hit the Powerball, that'll be one of my first purchases!!

73!
Bill AB9TA
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W3WN on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Sounds like the radio you're looking for might just be a Ten Tec Argonaut V.

Pity that they're no longer in production.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KE3SKY on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I would want to be able to bring this kind of radio on a backpacking trip. The current proposal, while sounding great, seems a lot like the 897 if everything needs to be included in a single unit. I wouldn't want to carry something that heavy along with me on a 20 mile backpacking trip up and down hills. I would want to have the weight of the radio under 1.5kg or less without the battery. In terms of size I would like something with the dimensions of the 817 as size is an important factor when attempting to fit several days worth of supplies into a backpack.

The radio itself should include an ATU that can handle 10:1 SWR or more preferably if the radio is also to be of use for the ecomm crowd. It should also be able to put out full power using any power input, as well as low current consumption. It does not seem that a built in keyboard would always be needed. Allowing the user to add this independently may be more helpful. Perhaps a roll up USB keyboard using a second USB port. The other option would be a Bluetooth connection. I would limit power to 10w if this helps to keep the size and weight down, if an additional 10w doesn't add any weight then great, but I would sacrifice 10w to save several ounces while backpacking.

I think one way to solve the weight issue would be to make the system more modular. Instead of an internal AC supply, it, the battery and keyboard could be attached using a miniature rail-type system which would allow the user to mount the accessories on any side of the radio (except where the removable faceplate would be). The 12v vehicle charger and a roll up USB keyboard could be stored in a compartment built into the AC power supply when attached. Larger batteries are harder to find so I would recommend providing the option to have several AAA or AA batteries used in a holder in place of C or D cells, they way you might find in LED flashlights.

Skye Randall
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by WS4E on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
1) Take the FT-817
2) Add weather band 162mhz rx coverage(jez why was this left out, we are OUTSIDE using this radio ya know)
3) Add IF-DSP filtering

4) Profit!


Bonus) Add built in USB interface that has CAT / PSK audio-in/out, and cw keying via serial built in

Extra Bonus) Add a 192khz I/Q SDR signal output for a panadapter

 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by WX7G on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Your specs point to the KX3 at 12 watts as the closest production radio.

Should a new radio be developed to run 20 watts when the KX3 runs 12 watts and has a very effective speech processor?

The KX3 serves as base, mobile and field radio.

The KX3 maintains high efficiency at 12 and 5 watts by switching a tap on the output transformer.

Internal rechargeable NiMH batteries provides hours of operating. In a pinch it will run with Alkaline batteries.

What is missing is water proofing. Is it so difficult to keep water off a radio when using it in the field? Or is the desire for water proofing just to play army?

 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KB1GMX on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
>>Forgot to charge the battery? No problem, just plug it into the 12-volt vehicle power to charge the batteries on your way to the camp site. Need to use it portable now and you have dead batteries? Stop by the local 24 hour food mart and buy couple of D Cell batteries , pop them in and your good to go. Everything would be self-contained.<<

Batteries, there is lies a whole world of hurt. D-cells are all over the map for quality and total amp hour
capacity and 12V or more (10) of them are heavy! Ever look at what that is in the way of both weight
and size? Note I mentioned 10 as those battery have anything but a flat discharge curve you really need
to keep the voltage above some value to get things to work.

Lithium would be better but costly and use much care when charging.

Forget gells as they are heavy for the amps. Same for NiCds/NiMh.

Keep in mind that at 20W you need serious peak current in the range of 4A.
And please don't do the but its only 20W, A 20W amp needs about 40W of DC power
and at 12V your talking over 3A, the rest of the radio will need a bit too.


<It could look much like the IC 7200, Army PRC Manpack Radios, Vertex VX 1210 and SGC 2020 (with all its accessories) all combined into one unit.

Manpack implies watertight or at least rain proof (water resistant). That means a good case that will
have all ins and outs through some form of water resistant connector. The average earphone jack, power
connector and USB connector are the worst ones for that.

>>What would be the appeal of this?
#1 It would serve the QRP crowd.
#2 It would serve the 'higher than QRP' power crowd.
#3 It would serve the ecomm crowd.<<

It has to as you need volume to make it at reasonable prices.


>>#6 It would appeal to KX3 owners who are concerned about bring their radios to the field. Like the KX3 it
would have a USB port and does PSK-31.<<<

Only if you give them everything the KX3 has... Oh and large displays are fragile and need backlight
for night use.

#7 It would appeal to those who are into the Manpack, Military PRC type of radios.

It might if it really could be tossed in a pool where it floats and not die.


#8 It would appeal to the Pedestrian mobile crowd.

Maybe...

#9 It would appeal to the IC-7200 crowd with its USB port, simplicity, reliability, water resistant and ruggedness.

This USB affliction... What that means is you are dragging a computer along.
I'd add that a PSK31 only radio could be small and light if it din't have to be the do all radio.
Hint, did anyone ever use or see a Small Wonder labs PSK20?


#10 The best part, it compliments other radios that hams already own. It would be the radio to use for outdoors and on the go.
While it could be used as a base or mobile radio it's best place would be outdoors, all self-contained and ready to go at a
moments notice.

Ok this is the radio that is a self contained gobox.


You forgot real things like what bands, what modes, what buttons and knobs are a must and from the #7 and #8 people will
all say is what about the antenna mount and auto tuner? More bands, more space for needed filters and circuitry, Does a radio
like this need 160M? or 6M? Both add their share of complexity and weight. However we see that a lot of people picked on the
new TenTec Argo 6 because they left out 60, 12 and 6M, oh horror! OH and the same people grouse about the price but to build
a "manpack" inspired radio is going to cost more.

Any knobs that pierce the front panel have to be O-ringed (or other seals) to permit water resistance. That means the
nice smooth main tuning knob is going to be stiff and draggy. Or no knob and you have up and down buttons. Menues?

A solar panel is a nice idea but one large enough to generate enough power to charge usefully is about 2 square feet!
I repeat 1 foot by 1.5 foot or about 12W! And to charge a well used battery in the 8Ah range that means at least
8 hours of direct sun not some dappled light filtering down between the trees. Solar is great but rarely small in area.

Then there is the speaker mic or a real speaker and microphone or do it the mil way with H250 handset.

I figure I can't just say metoo. I've used a lot of portable radios, and manpacks and radios that were neither but
still got hauled around. Things that stand out:

* Weight, weight and less weight.
* power vs weight
* a good antenna and a matching auto tuner that can also match wires. Remember loaded antennas
are by definition inefficient.
* 80-20 or maybe even 15 ( a whip at 80M needs a drag wire for ground to work poorly)
* has to take a beating, rugged.
* can run on anything that passes for 12V (really 10 to maybe even 24V without quitting or going boom).
* manageable controls
* it should be serviceable.

There are plenty of radios out there that can do that and NONE are cheap, even used.

In the mean time I can grab my TT Eagle and a 33ah AGM/SLA and a Par/LNR EF220/30/10 and do stuff while
waiting. (that kit with mic and 25ft of rg8x weights about that of a fully loaded PRC1099 or about 33 pounds.)


Allison


 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by GILGSN on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Like Chris says, with all those features, it would be too big. My KX3 is the limit as far as size I am willing to carry. Any "built-in" antenna would suck, so better let the user decide.

What I would like is the radio manufacturers to think out of the box, literally. Most radios are in the shape of a brick.. Why not make them flat, like a tablet? So you can put it on your lap, lay your notepad on it and write.. A built-in Morse key, now that would be great. It also would fit better in a backpack.

Gil.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by K0JEG on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The FT-897d outputs 20 watts on the internal battery pack(s). With a device like the Rigblaster PNP a fair amount of what you want can be accomplished. With a Buddipole-style antenna, full range tuner like the AT-897 or an SG237, or screwdriver you could get 90% of the way there. Just need a custom backpack to hold it all easily. There was an article in QST a few years back with instructions on how to bring out the internal battery back out to the external DC power connection.

But it is getting long in the tooth and is overdue for an upgrade.

And it requires some work to get it all put together. If you want an off the shelf solution you're going to have to go military surplus.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AF6WL on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Your 20W manpack is exact what I wanted to buy when I got a FT-817 many years ago and when I bought a KX3 earlier this year.

The grab and go concept and ability to operate with a lousy antenna and establish comms with less than ideal propagation are exactly what I'm looking for.
I would also happily turn the power down, and save battery life, when I've had time to rig an efficient antenna.

The really is a big market gap between 10W and 100W.

The only thing I would add is having the thing rain and sand proof.
I would like to operate it on the beach and on hilltops in the snow and rain. The KX3 works well and looks good but the metalwork makes it feel like a cheap toy.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by N9AOP on September 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Harris and Codan already make this type of radio and either one will take a beating and stil tick. So does Yaesu.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W1JKA on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
In the meantime a simple alternative for the boonie QRP SSB only/pedestrian mobile crowd. YouKits 5 band TJ2B MK2 $329.00, even comes with a free moisture proof carry pouch that fits on your belt.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by F8WBD on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Nice ideas. However, as this solar-cycle, not particularly inspiring, bottoms out, not sure any manufacturers are willing to invest heavily in developing another QRP rig. A previous post iterated their challenges.

Actually I would have preferred another Ten-Tec update of the 505/509/515 and not their current mini-version. Same dimensions and look, not necessarily, the same specs.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by NA4IT on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"#3 It would serve the ecomm crowd."

Anyone ever worked a QRP Emcomm station in real time? The other station constantly has to asks for repeats, or digital traffic from the QRP rig doesn't make it, but manages to tie up the frequency for hours trying to send it's traffic.

Leave the toys at home...

Flame retardant on...
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AI4BJ on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
There's a good reason why you do not see transceivers powered by D-cell batteries. Alkalines can barely deliver enough peak current to power a 5 watt transmitter; forget about 20 watts. And if you go NiMH, you would need at least 10 cells to get the 12 volts needed to produce 20 watts. 10 D cells does not come anywhere near to my idea of what portable operation is about!
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AI4BJ on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
>> #6 It would appeal to KX3 owners who are concerned about bring their radios to the field

I've never really understood this concern. I wrap my stock KX3 in an item of clothing and toss it in my backpack. It doesn't need any additional protection. If I'm operating and it begins to rain, I bring it into my tent or toss it back into the backpack. Who wants to operate in the rain?
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KA4KOE on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Vertex Standard VX-1210. Amazing radio. Ruggedized, waterproof, almost milspec grade, still sold new by the manufacturer....

http://www.vertexstandard.com/ap/vx-1210.html

Highly recommended....

Philip
KA4KOE
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by N6AJR on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
does Ten Tec have anything like this ?
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KK6GNP on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I have been going back and forth about getting a KX3. I'm setting up my first shack as a ham, and the thing is, I will do a lot of field QRP (camping, backpacking, etc). Most people have warned me away from the KX3 as a base station, but my thoughts were about being able to use it for both, until I can eventually afford a dedicated base station.

However, the more I think about the KX3, as awesome as it is, the more I would be scared to death to take a ~$1500 QRP device camping, or out to the desert with me. It's just not hardened enough in my opinion. Cases and containers are great and all, but you still have to take the thing out to use it.

Because I want to be able to do SSB and CW, I too have been looking at the 5-band YouKits radio. For that price, I wouldn't be worried about taking it out regularly, and it wouldn't make me puke if I accidentally destroyed it somehow.

I personally hope to see more kits like this that are low cost. If you want to know why a lot of hams come to the this hobby brand new, and then promptly go inactive, I would guess the money needed to spend on HF gear is a good reason. It's been daunting for me. $1000-$1500 for an "entry level" HF transceiver, and realizing I still need all the ancillary gear to go with it.

That may not seem like much money to old hams around here, but it's a lot compared to computers, and other electronic devices on the market these days. Telling people to "buy used" isn't a good enough answer either. I don't like buying used stuff at all, especially electronics.

Just my 2 cents. ;)
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W4KYR on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
There have been really good ideas and excellent comments so far. I'd like to address a few of them.


>>>Batteries, there is lies a whole world of hurt. D-cells are all over the map for quality and total amp hour capacity and 12V or more (10) of them are heavy!<<<...>>>There's a good reason why you do not see transceivers powered by D-cell batteries. Alkalines can barely deliver enough peak current to power a 5 watt transmitter; forget about 20 watts.<<<


Where did I come with the idea using D batteries as a source of power? I saw that the Yaesu FT 290 ran on 8 C Batteries. http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/hammulti/ft290r.html

I was going to suggest C batteries, but maybe D batteries could last longer. Perhaps D batteries are not a good idea, but the thought came from the FT 290 and the possibility of needing to get on the air quick using conventional (non 12 volt) sources for power in the field.


>>>The really is a big market gap between 10W and 100W.<<<...>>>10 watts is plenty, no need to go to 20<<<....>>>I would limit power to 10w if this helps to keep the size and weight down, if an additional 10w doesn't add any weight then great, but I would sacrifice 10w to save several ounces while backpacking.<<<

I suggested 20 watts, because I have read comments here and elsewhere that in some cases 5 isn't enough, 10 is good, 20 is better. It was a suggestion, anyway if cx aren't that good...maybe even 50 or 100 migh not cut it. The VX 1210 is currently in production and does put out 20 watts max. http://www.vertexstandard.com/lmr/HF-Radios/VX-1210


>>>Any "built-in" antenna would suck, so better let the user decide.<<<

Just a SO 239 on the top or side could just do and we could add our antenna of choice. With adapters as needed.



>>> How about the carrying strap? Maybe a 2 in.wide 4 ft. length with built in flexible small solar panels for recharging along with small yo-yo type antenna reel at each snap hook for a small dia. wire emergency NVIS dipole,the strap itself being the feed line. Both charger and antenna fitted with appropriate plug in leads<<<...>>>>A solar panel is a nice idea but ....<<<<

Solar is certainly possible but will add more to the cost. The carry strap with flexible solar panels is a very interesting idea.


>>>However, the more I think about the KX3, as awesome as it is, the more I would be scared to death to take a ~$1500 QRP device camping, or out to the desert with me. It's just not hardened enough in my opinion. Cases and containers are great and all, but you still have to take the thing out to use it.<<<<

I think right now if a company could come along and custom retrofit existing radios into making them weather resistant, case hardened and more like the rugged manpack radios. They could do a brisk business, not just with the KX3 but with the FT 817/897 and IC 703. Maybe Elecraft could offer it for the KX3 sometime in the future.



>>>But it (FT 897d) is getting long in the tooth and is overdue for an upgrade.<<<

Correct and the FT 817d is due for an upgrade as well. The question is what will Yaesu replace the 817 and 897 with? What would YOU like to see Yaesu incorporate into the next generation?

Maybe the manufacturers could read your comments and incorporate them in the next generation.


>>>Perhaps a roll up USB keyboard using a second USB port.<<<

Great idea.


>>>Vertex Standard VX-1210. Amazing radio. Ruggedized, waterproof, almost milspec grade, still sold new by the manufacturer....<<<

A used one with all the accessories sold for $1799 on E-Bay. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vertex-Standard-VX-1210-SSB-AM-CW-HF-MANPACK-PACKAGE-w-Ants-Tuner-Bag-Bats-MORE-/171080044070?pt=US_Ham_Radio_Transceivers&hash=item27d52a4e26
 
It begs the question.  
by AI2IA on September 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Why is there a "need" for a new QRP field radio?

There are plenty of radios out there that can be used for QRP, and quite a few really good kits to build yourself.

In addition, there is always your regular radio which you can use simply by reducing power to whatever level you like and still have the benefit of all of its extras while operating QRP.

If there is a real need out there regarding QRP, a few clever antennas for QRP would be appreciated by quite a few operators.

 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by N0SA on September 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with KK0G. I backpack and do SOTA ops. Weight and size are BIG factors.
I see run SOTA with a KX3 as a lot of guys do.
The KX3 is all the radio I need.
I say, put more emphasis on better performing and lightweight antennas. Why have a great radio and connect it to a poor antenna?
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W1JKA on September 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I don't understand the comments of the last two post concerning portable qrp antennas. Most who have been involved with niche for a reasonable amount of time are well aware of the many homebrew/commercial types of antennas available that are ideal for this particular type of operation and none expect the efficiency of an Optibeam on a 60 ft. tower when operating qrp portable although we admit it would be very nice.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W4KYR on September 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!


Regarding the comments about the batteries:

Why couldn't the radio use the Yaesu FNB 78 Batteries? They are already on the market. Some ham ops already have them for their FT 897/D radios. They put out 13.2 volts.

And there are aftermarket FNB 78 batteries and a aftermarket Charger which makes the cost a little more palatable. So this needs to be asked. Why couldn't anyone use the FNB 78 battery for another radio already on the market regardless if it is QRP, 10 watt or 20 watt radios?

Regarding comments about the antennas:

If anyone owns a Vertex VX 1210 and has the VX 1210 whip antenna. How efficient are they? How well do they work in the field? What would be the closest antenna on the market to them in performance?

More comments about solar:

Those "radio carriers' that sell on E-bay for $159 +/- might be long enough to fit a small solar panel within the frame.

In addition, as a retrofit. It might be possible to build one or two inch thick protective covers on the widest part of the sides of the manpack and hide a small solar panels in them. Just unhook the covers and the covers will come off and just position the panels in the sun.

If it is dark out, just leave them on the manpack when you are not using them. The face of the solar panel will face the manpack and will be will be protected by the cover.

We are just talking some wood, some removable hinges, latches, small solar panels and wire. Maybe an hour or two of construction time...if that. Anyone can build that now without waiting for a new radio to appear on the market.


 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AI4BJ on September 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
>>Why couldn't the radio use the Yaesu FNB 78 Batteries? They are already on the market. Some ham ops already have them for their FT 897/D radios. They put out 13.2 volts.

=======
There's no reason you couldn't use it, but why would you want to? LiFePO4 batteries are available for a fraction of the cost and weight of the FNB 78. LiFePO4 batteries also have a flatter discharge curve, lower self-discharge rate, and last longer (charge/discharge cycles) than NiMH batteries.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KL7AJ on September 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I'm waiting for the Harris 5800 radios to come up on the surplus market.....but that won't happen soon...the Air Force is still paying $35,000 a pop for these. But they fill the bill perfectly.


Ruling out that for the time being...it's EXTREMELY UNLIKELY any of the big three manufacturers would build these. They all have their predetermined agenda, and if that agenda happens to coincide with what hams ACTUALLY want, it's sheer coincidence. Most likely it would be a NEW company that specializes in just these radios that could make it fly.

The most elegant (and simple) way to achieve this is with a direct conversion receiver AND transmitter. DSP would be nice but not necessary. It would be Arduino controlled, like Ten Tec's latest offering.

The bullet proof part would be the most expensive feature. A standard Motorola brick would be about 1/10 of its normal cost if it weren't designed to be able to survive being run over by a HumVee.

Any of the recent man-pack "green radios" would have the perfect form factor. (Harris 5800 being case in point).

Eric
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by K8QV on September 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
We sure have been spoiled. Field radios were in use during WWI. Now we want a specific power output, waterproof, all mode, dsp and digital ready rig that runs on solar, and it needs to fit in an Altoids tin. All this technology only to connect it to some crap piece of wire thrown over a tree.

The best field radio or emergency rig is a cell phone. After that, a tiny two watt CW rig is cheap, tough, foolproof, operates for days on a small battery, and will always get a signal out. Of course, nobody wants to use the most simple and appropriate mode for the purpose since it requires learning CW.

Just saying.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W1JKA on September 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Re:K8QV

" Just saying" Well you just said it, finally a real world practical response and the only reason I carry a cell phone, FRS unit and a MFJ Cub on all my qrp excursions. As to real world civilian qrp ops rig survivability issues, well I know fist hand my lil POS Cub(s) can be stepped on, dropped more than a few times, submerged at a lake shore and dropped in a stream at least once so far then dried out in a reflector oven for a few hours and continue to operate to the present time. Hmmm,always wondered if I could do this with a KX3.If anybody running around in the woods considers any type of communication device as the ultimate tool in an emergency situation they would be well advised to stay home. I dare say that probably about 90% of QRP portable operators do so for fun and recreational purposes and not for the expectation of disaster or the outbreak of WW111. Also just saying.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by K4IA on September 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Buy a KX3. Problem solved.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by F8WBD on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
KV and JKA. Hear, hear!
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by JOHNZ on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
A sad testimony, indeed, when today's CB mentality appliance operators fail to comprehend that a QRP radio is a C.W.only, battery-powered pocket radio that can be constructed in a few hours from scrap parts. Oh, that's right, they are too busy demonizing C.W. The ARRL shares a large portion of the guilt for today's sorry state of amateur radio. Imagine, at one time, teenage boys in high school radio clubs could construct a QRP radio during a club meeting. Oh, that's right, the no code newbies tell us that is all ancient history. How sad! The nation's pool of low-information voters grows larger every day. 10-4? CQ contest CQ contest, you are 59 59 59.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by TANAKASAN on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Why should a QRP rig be CW only? The official definition of QRP is 5W CW or 10W SSB so our rig needs to be multi-mode. PSK is also a QRP mode as folk who transmit 100W PSK31 tend to get frowned upon and low power levels are encouraged.

Tanakasan
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by K8QV on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
<<< Why should a QRP rig be CW only? >>>

It shouldn't. It's just that for the stated purpose of dependable, effective, ultra light, power miserly operation in the deep outback or for emergency communication under the worst conditions, the little CW rig stands alone. There's nothing wrong with taking sophisticated appliances out to the field or hoping to use them in an emergency. Just know that CW will always get the job done with the fewest problems when "playing radio" won't work.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by TANAKASAN on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
P.S. 'CQ contest CQ contest, you are 59 59 59' is my idea of purgatory. The only use I have for contests is to test my front-end designs under crunch conditions.

Tanakasan
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by HAMMYGUY on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
CW only brings a scene from the movie Independence Day. The one where the plans to bring down the alien ships was communicated all over the world via code keys clicking away.

But in most scenario's the disaster will be localized and the need to have voice communications is critical. Whether on VHF/UHF or HF, more practical communications is possible with voice. Not low powered CW rigs. In a case like this I'd take an FT-817 over anything else mentioned due to it's full band coverage and light weight. Though I have a KX-3 in the shack and it's fun, but not in the least bit practical for disaster communications.

Hey Elecraft where's that 2 meter module?
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AA4PB on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
See, there's a positive side to everything.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KB1GMX on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Ok, If efficiency (battery economy/weight) is the prime concern then CW is the
only way to go. No argument or other fits there.

However...

The call was for a multifunction CW/SSB/PSK radio and that a step down the
efficiency tree. SSB amplifiers are inherently less efficient than class C/D/E
amps that can be used for CW. There are tones of CW only TRX out there many
could be rebuilt into a more rugged case easily.

The power number was his arbitrary choice. I can say that 20W SSB is effective
and has enough increase over 5W to make a difference. The yabut is 20W wants
decent and larger batteries.

Multiband, this is tough. For local (out to a few miles) VHF and 10M works even
with marginal/small antennas. A 5W HT from china is cheap and two bands plus small.
On the other hand 160M is likely impractical. WARC frequencies are nice but the
big activity is 80/40/20. Three bands makes it far easier and more compact.

Antenna, a built in tuner is a must. A jack for 50 ohm antennas is as well.
The user will have to be both flexible and understanding of what the conditions
permit.

Now how effective can a 10FT (AT251) be with a antenna tuner that is good.
IN this case the whip was on a PRC1099 (excellent autotuner) at 20W
with a single wire of the reasonable length for frequency in use as a
counterpoise. This is all SSB, CW wthout qquestion can do better and PSK31
fall inbetween. At 20W I've been heard reliably out to about 50MI and
frequently to 100 on 75M during the day, further at night On 10M that
will is a DX vertical at 20W if the band is open. On 40 its ok, 20 its
near half size so it does well enough to hit the 200-800 mile ranges.
However a PAR EF 40/20/10 on those bands makes the 10ft whip look
terminally poor with one end at least 25ft up as a sloper to about
4ft with only 10ft of RG58A feed line.

With that said I've used a KNQ7A (about 12W pep) mobile using a 7ft
center loaded whip with contacts in the 350-500 range during the day
and Europe in the after dark. With a dipole/EF-wire cut for 40 DX is
easy at night and good distances during the day are not hard. A (4S)
3800mah LIPO, coax, and EF40/20/10 the whole load is under 8 pounds.

That's the story. Everyone has a different need and opinion on how much
to carry and mode of operation. I strongly feel every band is not needed
for portable HF work, the mode is a personal choice but CW has its advantage.
Antenna will be compromise but there is really poor and better. Antenna tuner
depends on user preference for antenna or conditions. Battery determines both
operating time and power for any mode. Additional things like solar is cool
but recognize that the most commonly efficient panels are typically under 15%
and illuminated area (directly by the sun) makes it useful. With some care
a solar system can greatly extend useful time on the charged battery.

One last comment on power. Since the radio will listen more than 70% a receiver
(or the RX of transceiver) should be miserly on power. For example MY PRC1099
is only 185MA on RX, My kNQ7 runs about 65ma at average volume. RX numbers like
that make even small batteries possible if they can supply the needed TX power.
That also make the typical Volkswagon solar panel (3W at 18V, 170ma Isc, 13x9"
and maybe 1 pound) more than enough to charge while receiving with a low power RX.
The foldable panels are great but far from the pricing of conventional types.

However the users run the gamut from ultralight multi-day backpackers hiking the AT
to the occasional walk up the side of a hill or into a conservation land for a
daylight only excursion. Whats tolerable for the latter would be excessive to
the max for the hiker. One size does not fit all or even some.

With all that what I'd like to see.

More portable rigs with some thought on packaging for rough use in wet conditions.
Portable rigs that enclose the battery as its not a radio without power.
Portable rigs with antenna tuner (manual or auto).
Portable radios that are dual or triband (or plugable band change)
Multimode radios that have separate CW transmitter for efficiency
(as opposed to running a SSB TX in pseudo CW).

Oh, and somebody please make a 6/2/432 SSB/CW that is suitable for IF use and
those bands for the hill top and UHF/microwave operator.

I will say this despite being likely fragged, more CW/SSB radios over CW or SSB only.



Allison




 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by WB4TJH on September 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
KK0G....it's obvious you know little or nothing about the K2. It only weighs about 3 pounds with battery and its current draw on receive can be less than 150 milliamps. I would suggest you go do some research on it. While you're at it, read up on the KX3. It's ALL you will ever need for portable or for backpacking. The receivers on both radios will put the FT817 to shame.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KB1GMX on September 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!

The K2 is one of the few that sorta meets the portable all mode radio list. It is a very good radio and excellent receiver. Its also one of the few with a full 10W transmitter CW or SSB.

Its 3.3 pounds without options. Add antenna tuner, SSB option and battery option and your well up to 5 pounds.

Typical RX mode in the 120 to 250ma with options.
Thats better than a lot of commercial rigs but not
all that low.

Its not small. In a pack it eats substantial space.
It measures over all 3.4"H x 7.9"W x 9.9"D. For the
multiday trecker its heavy and huge. Its case has
hard corners.

Its not water resistant. It can be ruggedized some.

Set up with KSB2, KNB2, KAT2, KBT2, KAF2, about $1300
and a lot of hours assembling it.

The upside for that radio is it can add 160M and 100W options plus many more.


Again, one sizes does not fit all.


Allison
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AI4WC on September 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
K8QV sums it up. QRP is defined by the small, power-miser CW rigs, such as my NorCal 40 by Wilderness Radio. Dependable, yet small and easy to build and setup. BTW, I'm a no-code Extra, but do know what QRP is, even if I am a miserable "fist." I admire all aspects of QRP and, if you can operate voice effectively QRP, more power to you (pun intended). :o)
 
There IS a Market  
by W7ASA on September 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Truthfully, if a Chinese company really wanted to make for time for market research, R&D, design then TEST a product until it was stable and then make it an optimal size/ configuration, I think that the market would bear quite a bit of profit. However, the current marketing of most of the Chinese companies making HF rigs for lower power/portable use usually produce unstable designs, give no guarantees, marginal technology and list specifications which are either absent or highly questionable. This is VERY irresponsible marketing which results in failure.

China is a huge power, but only recently began to even THINK about the lessons of Quality Assurance and are still far below the Demming inspired ideas of quality assurance which made Japanese manufacturing so excellent (that and their national trait to require for personal responsibility and national drive for perfection in manufacturing which made it work for the Japanese.) Look at the outrageous prices now being paid for 1980/90 technology for the few simple, but high quality HF handi-talkies from the >Japanese< market on E-bay!? There is a market gap to be filled in small/easily portable, great performing rigs.

With virtually anything electronic these days being manufactured using fully automated, pick-and-place machines, placing a thousand surface mount components in the time it would take me to solder in 10 through hole parts, the cost of manufacturing could be quite low, as with the Handi-Talkies, which we now can buy for less than I just paid for sandals. And remember: HT's used to be VERY expensive, with many technical hurdles such as multiplier circuits, poor frequency stability and etc. until competition drove the technology to make prices low, while having high quality. This is why we have 'free' cell phones with most vendors - it's easy for them to recoop loss through selling services, due to low manufacturing costs for the phones themselves. (and high volume sales and a few other business gimics...)

Personally, I'd love a low noise, high performance CW QRP rig (add SSB for larger market share) even CLOSE to the size of an HT, with nice, radiused edges and corners, rechargeable slip on / off batteries, keeping the RX current LOW so that we can actually use it in the field. Add touch paddles to the outside of the case and make it at least splash proof... That would be a winner. Accessories like super lightweight folding and regulated solar panel and etc. Either a built-in PSK31 with QWERTY keyboard - or as an external accessory - no computer required for digital comms. Naturally, it's also a general coverage receiver for shortwave.

This would have been a silly pipe-dream not too long ago. Now, it's entirely do-able. Many of these functions are already part of many VHF/UHF HT's today. So, let's encourage some entrepreneur bring it to HF. Elecraft brought the 'dream machine' KX3 to market with well earned rave reviews. Though many thought that such impressive performance was not possible in the form factor they designed for - they did it! Let's suggest the next-gen field rig.

How about some of you hot-shot product development engineers sales guys get on it? There are already plenty of high performance 'boxes' that are made to operate on a shelf in a ham shack. How about a single, robust, unified HF transceiver that we can slip into a cargo pants pocket and go to the park, toss a wire into a tree and have a little fun without having to have 5 separate pieces, looking like a rat's nest, all plugged into each other, with external batteries, external SWR meter/tuner, external mic, external key and etc. (unless we choose to add our external favorites.) ? Size, somewhere between an HT to as large as paperback book - batteries for basic (yet realistic) operation included.



73 de Ray
W7ASA ..._ ._

Ps. Extended power pack/batteries for power levels OVER 5 Watts is perfectly fine to factor into the design.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KU2US on September 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
If I am going to do some QRP field work, I will take my trusty Alinco DX70 with me! Maybe not all the bells and whistles, but reliable and tough. Set the internal switch to 50 watts, and then low power setting= 5 watts QRP! Not super light but OK for the camp grounds. It is base, mobile, and can be portable with gel cell, All HF and 6M, multi-mode, QRO and QRP all in one package! Works for me! The posters idea is well worth considering too! I guess you would not consider it a backpacking radio though, but a great go-kit rig!
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by WO7R on September 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
As far as batteries, go what difference would this option make:

http://www.buddipole.com/4sa1bapa2.html

It's pricey, but it looks like a lot of amp hours in a very lightweight package.

If I ever start backpacking/mountaintopping, I would very strongly look into this relatively new technology.

There was something similar on sale at Visalia that had a very nice carrying case.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W1JKA on September 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I'm surprised Wall Mart has not jumped right on top of this concept. After all they are the largest employer in the country, think employee and retail customer product exposure to current and prospective hams and Wall Mart's extensive connections and power with all facets of Chicom manufacturing along with WM's top notch advertising campaigns without having to resort to expensive glossy QST ads. They could market this type of rig with their own smiley face logo and perhaps name it the "WallyPacMan" with best exposure in the guns/ammo/camping dept. rather than electronics. Two other big pluses are WM's ability to match or undercut any competitors prices along with their famous no questions asked return policy which is a nice touch since there is always a convenient store location near you (No Shipping) just on the off chance you get a DOA rig, and don't forget you can camp out in your RV in their parking lot and give the rig a trial run. So if there are any WM employees here, put this into the suggestion box and if it makes its way to Bentonville,Arkansas you may be pleasantly surprised with a .25 cents p/h bonus come Xmas time.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KA4KOE on September 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Better prices at Batteryspace for LiFEPO4.

http://www.batteryspace.com/li-ion-battery-packs-to-replace-lead-acid.aspx
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KA4KOE on September 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Portable solar???

PowerFilm foldable panels are the bees knees but expensive. I have the 20W panel. The Genasun GV5 charge controller is also recommended highly, bulletproof, and has a 10 year warranty.

Philip
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KE7TMA on September 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
To the people suggesting that the Harris 5800 and similar modern manpack radios on the market are the solution - they aren't. Sure, they are rugged, but they are lacking in just about every useful feature that hams expected to find in a radio 40 years ago, let alone a modern radio. What about noise reduction, noise blanking, variable receive filters, RIT / XIT, a VFO knob (!!!), ESSB and so forth? These military radios are meant to basically be yelled into, with crunchy but copy-able audio coming out of another radio some distance away.

Perhaps for the phone-only operator concerned with communications on the move, the manpack would be a good solution, but most of the hams who work portable use an HT when they are actually moving, and break out the HF gear when they stop.

Frankly for the people who need the kind of radio the OP is interested in, there already exists the FT-897, the VX-1210, VX-1400, and VX-1700, the Barrett 2030, 2050, and 2090, and so on and so forth. They are all fairly expensive except for the 897.

The fact is that there is a market for these radios, and amateurs are not really it. Military, NGOs and governments, explorers and so on are who these radios are made for .
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by N6EZS on September 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
If not WalMart, then how about Costco? Of course, you'd have to buy them in bubble packs of eight...
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by GILGSN on September 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
To anyone considering the KX3, don't hesitate. It's an excellent radio. I won't get mine outside before I get a Pelican case for it (1200 model), but otherwise, you couldn't ask for a better portable radio. The receiver and filtering are exceptional. I use it as a base station and will portable when I don't mind the weight and size. I know, it's not big or heavy, but I have a much smaller rig (weber MTR). Current draw is only 150mAh. Compare that with other QRP radios that can do all the KX3 does... Right... And it works with eight AA alkaline cells!

Gil.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KK0G on September 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"KK0G....it's obvious you know little or nothing about the K2. It only weighs about 3 pounds with battery and its current draw on receive can be less than 150 milliamps. I would suggest you go do some research on it. While you're at it, read up on the KX3. It's ALL you will ever need for portable or for backpacking. The receivers on both radios will put the FT817 to shame."

I have no idea what you're referring to but you'd be very wrong about my knowledge of the Elecraft K2, I've done extensive research on it and will be ordering one very soon to compliment the Elecraft KX1 that I currently use for portable work while backpacking.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by VE3XQQ on September 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Lots of traffic on this one.

It depends on what you are willing to do and how far you will go to get there. It is like camping, some will bush-wack and tent to lake, others will take a 40 foot coach and drive up to a lake.

I use what I can get my mitts on and if it works, great. If not then I try something else.

The adventure is the experiment its self.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W4KYR on September 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!


Thanks for the great input, diversity of opinions and some excellent ideas.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KK0DJ on September 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Bill... wonderful ideas. I guess the only things I would add would be a rigtop-sized solar array that folds out and provides a trickle-charge to the internal batteries. I would also provide a small dynamotor with a crank slot in the side of the rig so that you could charge up the batteries using man-power. Other than that, I think you nailed it! Good show old chap~!
73
Dennis
KK0DJ
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by RSHIRE22 on September 26, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I started as a qrp operator many moons ago bur I was also a cw fanatic when I was first licensed. Over the years I transitioned over to digital and now run JT-65A about 99% of the time. I have no use for qrp radios since I can turn down my qro radio whenever I have the lark. I have no need to travel anywhere since at the age of 61 I've been there and done that. The home qth is where I'll be until I'm an SK.
 
KX3  
by STRAIGHTKEY on September 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I see the KX3 mentioned many times, but this radio and everything else Elecraft makes falls flat in one particular category when it comes to outdoor operation: ruggedness. While the rig performance is quite good, their mechanical designs in comparison are toys. If you put a KX3 or any other Elecraft rig through what an FT-817 or 857 or 897 could withstand, it would end up with broken buttons, a cracked display and a bent chassis.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KB0DN on September 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
There was already a radio like this but in the wrong band, it would have been a great HF Radio, the Icom IC-215. Built in batteries, room for a tuner, built in VHF antenna, sets vertical for true portable Ops, not a mobile with portable features like the FT-817.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W4KYR on September 28, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Again thanks for the replies and keep 'em going. The Icom 215 is a great example of a self contained unit. The Yaesu FT 290 was another one.

Also in addition to this whole 'grab and go' / manpack topic/concept...is the Motorola Handie Talkie. Some have also called these 'Railroad Radios', 'Forest Radios' and 'Civil Defense Radios' from the 1960's.

You have seen these on E-Bay selling for $50 to $100 and up. They usually run on VHF 150 to 170 Mhz. They sit up, they have a mic, a large metal handle, a built in whip antenna. The bottom compartment contains batteries and can be separated from the main body.


Get a hold of one of these units, take the VHF radio out and retrofit it with a MFJ 9440 or 9475 (or the radio of your choice that fits). Mount a ham stick or a Buddipole antenna. Install D Batteries or retrofit a gel cell battery in the battery compartment and you have 'grab and go unit'.

Now you have a field ready radio ready to go at a moments notice to check into some emergency net 'in the field'. While it would not be a true manpack but rather a true 'grab and go' radio. Your ingenuity is the limit. You could probably build one of these so called 'handie talkies' out of wood (or perferably metal).

Again I keep seeing comments that the KX3 is not rugged enough. Those concerns partially inspired me to write this article in the first place. I see a need and a trend for these type of radios but in a more rugged enclosure. I have been reading comments on eHam, QRZ and elsewhere that the KX3 is a outstanding radio in every way but the many are afraid that it isn't rugged enough, and it seems to be a frequent concern.

Whoever has a tool shop and is handy with metal and designing things...there is a whole untapped market out there for you! Take a look what that ham from Austria did with his KX3 and turned it into a rugged manpack type of radio. If you have the resources, then start making these type of cases and sell them. Not only for the KX3 but for other radios as well. The demand and the interest is there....

Whatever you do, experiment and share your results. And just because someone is not producing it or selling it should not stop you for building your own. Building and experimenting is what help make ham radio great in the first place.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KA2ING on October 2, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
WOW, well written.. hope the boys at elecraft read this
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by KD8MRU on October 2, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I love QRP and love the idea of additional manufactures offering full featured QRP rigs. I like what Elecraft have done, and continue to do, with the KX3. I was some what concerned a little about the ruggedness of the KX3. Specifically carrying to the site. I use a Pelican 1200 in addition to the SIDE KX Side Plates & Lexan cover.

If you haven't, please take a look at the wonderful SIDE KX side plates and Lexan cover for the KX3. IMHO those two simple additions makes the KX3 much, much more rugged than the wonderful FT817.

eHam review of the SIDE KX items are here: http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/11230
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by K6ATT on October 3, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I've been looking carefully at the bands of greatest interest to me. They are, in descending order: 2 meters, 40 meters, 20 meters. A big dropoff for any other bands of interest beyond these. I'd like to see a radio with:

40 meters, 20 meters, 2 meters
CW and SSB cababilities
Up to 20 watts output
A decent internal antenna tuner
Low current draw on transmit

There are probably a few bells and whistles I'm missing. Don't know how it'd be out in the field. But no radio I know of has these features and little else. The FT-817 might be it, with more watts out and fewer bands. The K1 is attractive, but would need SSB and 2 meters. Maybe I'm picturing an Elecraft K1 - on super steroids. Maybe the K1 SS.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W5ESE on October 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with KK0G.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by AC8DP on October 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Some of my ideas:
The newer SI514 consumes a lot less power than SI570.

For the I/Q modulation/demodulation there are newer programmable codecs available with lower power consumption than what we're currently using. Linear has some interesting ones. Cheap enough and small enough that using one each for tx and rx is better than switching a single one between rx and tx.

Manual tuner not autotuner. No power consumed. 1 variable switched tx/antenna side. Finding suitable capacitor will be a challenge though.

Only mechanical switching at RF. (except maybe the tx relay) Newer super mini rotary multigang switches are really nice and reliable. No use wasting energy just to keep some diodes and relays on. The band switch ganged with the tuner L selector. Lower noise and intermod. Also save 2 buttons on keyboard for band up-down, and many lines of code for the uP.

1.8MHZ and 5MHZ are definitely a waste of space. Others maybe too.

Larger HT form factor a good idea. Recessed dimpled VFO knob on the side(SONY ICF-2010 style) with lock and fast keys nearby. Top panel knobs: Tuner L and band, tuner C, volume/off and RIT. Everything else can be on keyboard.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by N6KD on October 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
If you had used a KX3, you wouldn't be asking this question. It is a very complete QRP radio - if 10W isn't enough, you can add an amplifier. Great QRP radio.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W4KYR on October 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
People who already own the KX3 have voiced concerns about taking it out into the field and that it wasn't rugged enough. And that was one of the inspirations for the writing the article.

I think Elecraft should make a rugged manpack version of it, they could have called it the KX-3M (M standing for manpack). Instead of waiting around for someone to develop the retrofit. Some hams from Austria developed their own rugged manpack style for the KX3.

http://www.oe2atn.at/tom/gobox/


As for wattage. 5 watts is great, 10 watts is better and 20 watts is even better. Sometimes a little extra power can make a difference. No one is making 20 watt HF rigs these days except for the Vertex VX 1210 and that radio is not aimed for the ham market. The last radio that was aimed for the ham market and put out 20 watts was the SG-2020...which was discontinued some years ago.

 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by N1YRK on November 2, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
totally synthesized, running gnuradio and linux. should make implementing psk31, mfsk16 and other new modes easy.

autotuner. modules for such things as a solar charge controller. A variety of battery packs available.

daylight-viewable screen, using that epaper that the amazon kindle uses.

option of either touch-screen controls, or standard knobs.

power saving options, turning off power-guzzling features when not needed. for instance, lowering dsp sampling rate should save power.

use the same basic radio design for a variety of services, so a marine radio, aircraft radio, or government radio are just custom versions. this should help keep costs down.
 
RE: Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by N1YRK on November 2, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Other thoughts - pads to use 'tool' batteries. 12v, 18v? 24v? Not sure...just running this up the flagpole.

bands...well of course I'd want them all if I could ;) but that gets difficult. These days 6 meters is expected and 2m & 70cm are nice as well. If we have to give up a lower one to accommodate...well I'd rather have 2m/70cm in a radio and give up 160m.

How about a radio were everything is controlled by a smartphone? via bluetooth or usb (but then, how do you use a keyboard along with the smartphone? bluetooth to radio, and USB to keyboard, or vis-versa?

could use the GPS of the phone for aprs type things. It would be great if both the VHF/UHF rx/tx could work at the same time as the HF one, so you going do some dxing while waiting for data messages to come in on vHF. It would be great if a message-exchange system could have a sleep period, so the radio wakes up maybe once a minute to exchange messages. precise timing could be achieved by taking GPS time from the cellphone.

cellphones are available fairly waterproofed. Moving all the controls to the phone means the radio is easier to weatherproof as there are fewer openings.

as far as high power goes, 20W or whatever, it would be good to have it available. Perhaps only for short bursts, because those heatsinks are bulky. What might be useful is a highly variable output power, in increments of 1W or even less, to use just enough juice to get the job done.
 
Time for a New QRP Field Radio  
by W4KYR on November 13, 2013 Mail this to a friend!


Someone posted on one of the forums that the Vertex VX 1210 is being discontinued. That was the last currently produced 20 watt portable HF rig available and leaves a huge gap in the market.

This move leaves the KX3 as the only portable HF rig with over 5 watts that is left in production. Perhaps my article was more timely than ever, I trust that some of the manufacturers from Japan or China were reading this article. Some manufacturer needs to step up to the plate and fill the gap left by the SGC-2020, VX-1210 and the IC-703. I hope they follow the excellent suggestions made by some here.

As stated several times, the KX3 fills that gap well according to it's users. However KX3 users are concerned about bringing out their radio out in the field under less than desirable conditions. A lot of the comments pointed to the KX3 construction wasn't rugged enough as the FT 817 or SGC-2020.

Elecraft is in an unique position. They can also make a manpack version of their wildly popular KX3 and corner the rest of the market left by the VX-1210, SGC-2020 and IC-703. Call it the KX3M.

They can continue to produce the KX3 as they do now. But also produce a manpack version of the same radio, case hardened, handles, larger battery, connector for a hamstick, 25 watts instead of 10 watts, built in tuner, and take some of the suggestions from the comment sections of this article.

Again, the goal is to make a rugged, self contained HF rig that is a good performer with a built in tuner, 13.8 volt battery pack, built in antenna (or a mount for a inexpensive 'hamstick'), in a rugged case with handles in the front, and could operate vertically or in horizontal position, output of 20/15/10 and 5 and lower watts, covers all the HF bands (maybe VHF/UHF too?), have a USB port, can do PSK-31 out of the box with a 'rollup' keyboard.

I highly appreciated all the great responses and suggestions. This showed a great interest in this topic and that affirmed that I was not alone in my analysis that there was a gap in the market. And with the news that the Vertex VX-1210 being discontinued, there is now a huge gap in the market. Some manufacturer needs to step up to the plate and fill that gap. Who will be that manufacturer?

Will it be Vertex, Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood? Maybe Elecraft? Tentec, Alinco? Or one of the Chinese manufacturers? Baofeng? Wouxan? Quansheng?

Here is a exciting prospect, if Baofeng can sell their HT's four or five times cheaper than what the Japanese manufacturers could sell it for. Would Baofeng also be able to make an reliable rugged and portable HF rig four or five times cheaper than a VX-1210 or a SGC-2020? I have not been the only person asking that question.


As they say in radio, "stay tuned"...........

.
 
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